Two of the three Natwest T20 Blast games went down to the wire as another exciting night of Blast action once again proved this tournament of ours is far from mediocre.
At New Road, Worcestershire continued their fine early season T20 form with a comfortable seven-wicket win over Yorkshire. After winning the toss and electing to bat first on a cold Worcester late afternoon, the visitors endured a disappointing start as their two ‘pinch-hitters’ fell within two runs of each other. David Willey, who couldn’t bowl due to injury, opened for the Tykes but could only muster one blow to the boundary before falling for six bowled by the expensive Ed Barnard (1-45). A matter of minutes later, Alexei Kervezee produced a moment of magic to remove Adil Rashid pushed up the order in an attempt to score quick runs. Kervezee ensured he didn’t do that throwing the stumps down to run out the England man for just one. The visitors needed a partnership, and skipper Alex Lees and Jack Leaning provided it. The duo added 38 runs in just over five overs to begin the recovery. Lees, who set up to be the glue of the innings striking just four boundaries during his 36-ball stay for 46 fell though to his opposing skipper Daryl Mitchell to swing the game back in the hosts favour. Gary Ballance joined Leaning and the pair looked to drag back some of the momentum, they knocked the ball around for ones and twos nicely, but the duo could only add 18 in the three overs they were together before the impressive Joe Leach (3-33) removed Leaning for the first of his three scalps. Leaning, going for a rare lusty blow could only edge behind to a grateful Ben Cox, who took a simple catch. Four balls later, the Rapids took a firm grip on proceedings, Leach the man again as he slowly started to suck the momentum away from the visitors, this time, bowling youngster Will Rhodes for three to leave the Tykes on 99/5. He struck again in his next over again disturbing the woodwork to remove Ballance for a patiently made 24 off 23 balls. That was to be the last success for the hosts as Tim Bresnan (29 not out) and Liam Plunkett (34 not out) added some vital late impetus for the White Rose. Both struck at a ferocious tempo striking ten boundaries between them to propel the visitors to the respectable score of 173/6. The Rapids, though, unbeaten in this competition so far this season, completed victory at a stroll. They had useful contributions throughout their chase with Mitchell getting the ball rolling with a decent 29 which including six fours before becoming the first man to fall finding the hands of Gary Ballance off the bowling of Liam Plunkett to depart with the score on 44. In his next over, Plunkett struck again to continue his fine night with bat and ball. The England man tickled the timber to remove Tom Kohler-Cadmore for a well-made 19. Alexei Kervezee and Joe Clarke were the new men in and both scored a good tempo to slowly take the game away from their visitors. Clarke struck three fours and a six during his 23-ball stay, the duo shared fifty-one for the third-wicket as the hosts began to take control. The youngster fell though to the canny bowling of Rashid, Ballance again the man with the safe hands as Clarke fell for 34. Just as Yorkshire started to believe again, one of the counties form men strode past their team huddle, Brett D’Oliveira. The in-form Rapids all-rounder joined Kervezee and the pair combined magnificently to guide the hosts to their third win in a row. D’Oliveira played around the impressive Dutchman – who completed his half-century moments before the success was confirmed. He had struck six boundary fours in the process. D’Oliveria meanwhile, hit four boundaries during his unbeaten 34 as the pair took the hosts past the winning line to remain at the summit of the North Group.
In the South Group, Gloucestershire maintained their fine T20 Blast record against Middlesex to claim a dramatic win at the Merchant Taylors’ School. Many of the Middlesex faithful had turned up to see their big-hitting hero Brendan McCullum in action, but they only saw one lusty blow before the big New Zealander fell. Typically the one scoring shot the opener hit was a massive six, but that was to be all she wrote as he offered a return catch back to Graeme van Buuren who gratefully removed the Kiwi star. The in-form Dawid Malan didn’t last much longer as the Bristolians enjoyed a dream start after being asked the bowl first in freezing London conditions. Liam Norwell was the man to remove the Middlesex skipper for just two to leave the hosts struggling on 9/2. The England limited overs skipper walked to the middle to attempt to rescue the situation alongside Paul Stirling. The pair did a solid enough job adding 43 for the third wicket with Stirling dominating the scoring as Morgan struggled to time the ball, hitting just the one boundary, a big six. Morgan soon fell, though, for 13, caught by Ian Cockbain off the bowling of medium pacer Benny Howell. Australian Adam Voges brought a bit of Big Bash experience to proceedings adding a vital 61 with Stirling for the fourth wicket. Stirling by now had gone through to a deserved half-century striking five fours and three sixes to help guide his side past the 100 mark. Voges, meanwhile, was less explosive using his international experience to manipulate the field. He struck four boundaries during his unbeaten half-century but struggled to find partners after losing Stirling, who fell to the impressive Howell (2-23). Stirling’s departure for 60 left the hosts in a little bit of bother on 113/4 midway through the fifteenth over. They were soon five down as Tom Smith removed John Simpson in the next over, and it soon got far worse for the hosts as Andrew Tye grabbed his first wicket for the Bristolians with the first ball of the seventeenth over. Toby Roland-Jones and Voges offered a little bit of resistance adding a quick-fire 28 to boost the total passed 150, but they fell away during their final three balls. Indeed, they lost a wicket to every ball, first Roland-Jones fell caught by Norwell off of Tye for an important 17. Before two run outs ensued, James Fuller against his old club didn’t swing his bat in anger as he was dismissed without facing, before Harry Podmore fell going for an unlikely second run as the hosts finished their innings on 159/9.
Toby Roland-Jones continued his fine performance by striking twice early, including the important wicket of Michael Klinger. The hard-hitting Australian saw his timber clattered by the impressive Englishman to fall for a duck. Roland-Jones then struck to remove the other Gloucestershire opener, Hamish Marshall. Ian Cockbain (40), Chris Dent (45) and Benny Howell (37) then all added important contributions as the visitors chipped away at their target. None of them could take their side through to victory though as a mini middle order collapse occurred. Cockbain was the first to fall caught by the all action Roland-Jones off the bowling of James Franklin to leave the score on 81/3. Dent and Howell added 39 for the fourth wicket before Simpson stumped the former off the bowling of Stirling. Suddenly, it was game on as the hosts continued to take wickets at vital times, and that was the story as Howell fell to Ravi Patel late on in the 17th over. Jack Taylor, who was in the news earlier in the day for having his bowling action question, wanted to change a negative headline into a position one but he was bowled by Fuller with just nine runs still required. Captain Malan threw the ball to the inexperience Podmore and despite starting well the youngster bowled two full bungers and the rest, as they say, is history as Gareth Roderick swung the first full-toss ball for four before smashing the second out of the ground to seal the Bristolians 9th win in a row against the Londoners.
Elsewhere, in Southampton, Hampshire’s overseas all-rounders helped the South coast side to victory over Kent. Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi combined to bowl the hosts to an impressive success over one of the most in-form sides in the country. The Pakistani spinner took figures of 3-33, whilst the big West Indian collected figures of 2-20 as Kent fell nine runs short of Hampshire’s first innings total at the Ageas. Earlier in the night, Michael Carberry struck a crucial 54 to set the tone for the hosts including five fours and a six before departing midway through the 17th over. Afridi and Sammy both also added vital contributions with the bat, with Boom Boom hitting 21 including a brace of boundaries and Sammy adding a further 27 before becoming one of Matt Coles four victims as the Kent man finished with career-best figures of 4-27. Jimmy Adams and Liam Dawson were the only other men to reach double figures as the hosts finished on 158/8. In reply, the impressive duo of Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond took the visitors into a commanding position after nine overs. Bell-Drummond, who must now be firmly banging on the national selectors door struck yet another half-century, his ninth of the domestic campaign to top score for the Spitfires. But when the opening stand of 75 was broken by Dawson the tide soon turned. The England spinner bowled Denly for 31 to drag the South Coast men back into contention. And they started to believe even more when Sam Northeast and danger man Sam Billings both fell in quick succession to the leave the visitors on 86/3. Kent veteran Darren Stevens played a brief cameo striking a six and a four during his 10-ball stay for 18 before Sammy trapped the stalwart to leave the visitors on 112/4, and the big West Indian showed his international pedigree when he caught Alex Blake first ball to firmly swing the tie. Kent were beginning to fall away and the Spitfires hopes of victory rested firmly on Bell-Drummond’s shoulders. So when he fell for 64 with the visitors still 26-runs short of victory the Hampshire faithful began to party in the stands. Afridi the man with the big wicket having the opener stumped with the score on 132. Like Sammy had done two overs early, Afridi struck immediately to remove Coles for a golden duck as the visitors began to fall away. And it was left to Gareth Berg to finish it off for the hosts as the former Middlesex man in the final over bowled David Griffiths. Hampshire returned to winning ways after being thrashed by Middlesex last week, winning by nine runs.
Reports by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
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